It has been a couple of years since my last trip to Tuscany, but after sitting down with Felice 83 Owner and Winemaker Jacopo Giustiniani, the delightful memories of fine Tuscan wine and outrageously delicious food came pouring back. I was invited to meet Jacopo and to try some of the latest varietals from the family winery, Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani. Owned by his maternal grandfather in the 80's, it was inherited by Jacopo and his brother Matteo in 2002. The winery sits on over 100 acres in the Northwest of Tuscany, between the Tirrenean Sea and the Appennino mountains. This unique location, with its clean air and perfectly sun-drenched climate, lends itself to wines with an extraordinary point of difference. This is only enhanced by the unique blend of modern techniques the brothers employ in their winemaking that combines what they learned working along side their grandfather, with some French inspirations that Matteo acquired when studying winemaking in Bordeaux.
Felice 83 is only about a year old, yet the restaurant has a very pleasant, familiar feel that invites you in as you approach the entrance. Once inside, you are greeted with all of the hospitality you would find at the home of an old friend and an atmosphere that feels warmly Italian and intimate.
Upon meeting Jacopo it was clear why Felice 83 felt so welcoming. His charm and passion for wine are infectious and as the night progressed, I felt as if I had known him for years. He spoke of a deep desire to be a part of the food and wine culture which surfaced at a very young age. His love of wine was cultivated by his grandfather Sebastiano and his passion for food by his other grandfather and restaurant namesake, Felice.
Some of my favorite wines from the evening were:
Fattoria Sardi Sauvignon Blanc: Light in color, this graceful wine is fruity and fresh with notes of peach and grapefruit. It lingers just long enough to have a satisfying finish. This is a pleasant wine that pairs well with pasta, grilled chicken or pork.
Felice Bianco: This delightful blend of Grechetto and Chardonnay presents ripe fruit with hints of vanilla and apple and just the right amount of acidity. This delicious white offers a satisfying lasting finish.
Sebastiano Merlot: Is named for the brother’s paternal grandfather. This Bordeaux grape cultivated in the Tuscan winery makes the perfect marriage of French and Italian winemaking to create a unique Italian Merlot with the best elements of both worlds. Aged in French Oak for 18 months, this ruby red gem is full bodied with blackberry and raspberry notes, along with cinnamon and just the right amount of spice to elevate this well balanced wine.
To accompany these incredible wines we indulged on some of the delicious house specialties including: a Salmon Tartare diced with cucumber, avocado and pickled jalapeno, two delectable Crostone selections, one with truffled ham and mixed mushrooms, and the other with sliced zucchini, eggplant and Burrata, with a whisper of olive oil. Our final dish was the unforgettable Tortelli, which of course is homemade and filled with beef brasato and served in a light potato puree with a sangiovese reduction.
Like the wine, every dish was memorable and impeccably prepared by Chef Simone Parisotto. I found myself planning my next dinner at Felice 83 just as I finished this one.
Felice 83 is located at 1593 1st avenue (at 83rd street)